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'Begin Again' is a powerful tribute to the power of music

Keira Knightley and Adam Levine make a musical connection in "Begin Again".
Keira Knightley and Adam Levine make a musical connection in "Begin Again".
© The Weinstein Company

Begin Again


Have you ever felt a connection so strong to a piece of music that you felt it must have been written just for you in that exact moment you were listening to it? Have you ever felt like an artist was ripping thoughts straight from your head and putting them into a song? Has a song ever been there for you to say just the right thing you needed to hear at just the right moment?

To me, one of my longest and best friends in the world has been my iPod. I've had the same iPod since high school, which was over a decade ago for me. Whenever I've needed a friend to tell me everything will be alright or even to agree with me that nothing is alright, my iPod has always been there for me. Through my iPod, I can always pull out a song to suit whatever mood I am in. Even on days where I feel like I can't even talk to people, I can at least listen to them through music. When I briefly lost the charger for my iPod recently, I felt like a good friend of mine had got a terrible health diagnosis and started to fear how I was going to say goodbye to this friend. Of course, I could have just bought a new charger or I even could have bought a new iPod with better features and of a smaller size, but what about my old iPod? My old iPod has been there for me whenever I've needed it. It has given me so much wisdom, so much good times, and so much consolation in the bad times. All it's ever asked for in return is that I plug it in to charge it every now and then.

Really though, it's not the iPod itself that has been such a friend to me all these years, but the music that I have put onto it. I have made so many connections to people through their songs. This is what the movie "Begin Again" is about. "Begin Again" again is about a record producer and a musician who connect through the power of music. It is about the people that connect to them through the power of their music. It is about how a song can save a life.

Actually, the original title for the movie was "Can a Song Save Your Life?". That title is a much less vague title and a much more to-the-point title than "Begin Again". In that sense, the original title does work better, but perhaps it doesn't fit as well on a movie marquee? Either way, "Begin Again", while also a fitting title, is too general and too lacking in power to really convey the emotions that run through this movie. "Begin Again" is a powerful statement on how music can change people and bring them together in ways that never would have been possible without it.

A song can be about many things. Songs can be made for many different reasons. If you turn on the radio then you may sometimes get the impression that most songs are made just to fit within a certain style that is currently bringing in a lot of money for the record companies and their artists. One of the main characters in "Begin Again", record producer Dan, played by Mark Ruffalo, is listening to various demos he has been sent by artists hoping to get a record deal with his company. As he sifts through one after another, he gets more and more annoyed. They all sound so devoid of any kind of true feeling. The songs are all manufactured songs coming out of a machine with lyrics only going as deep as to have lyrics about feeling good and partying in the summer. I know I have felt similar feelings of annoyance when listening to the radio at times.

However, what about those moments where you find yourself out somewhere, say in a store that is playing some music from its speakers, and suddenly words start coming out of the speakers that seem to be speaking just to you in that particular moment? What about those times when you put on a certain song and it just lifts up your spirits? What about those times when you have so many questions about the world and so many fears and you feel like you're the only one who thinks these thoughts until you hear a song that says everything you've been thinking?

A song can form a connection so strong with you that it drowns out everything else in your life. I know I have been walking in a crowded city before, with tons of frustrated, impatient, angry, and loud people and totally have felt none of it because I was listening to a song through a pair of headphones. A song can not only drown out the world around you, but it can change the world around you too. Suddenly, an angry, impatient world can become a part of a beautiful symphony with the right soundtrack playing into your ears. The best part is that this music can be playing just for you. Music can be a deeply personal experience. "Begin Again" captures this feeling perfectly.

Not all songs that are written are written just for fun or to make money. There are many, many songs out there that are written from a deeply personal and emotional place. Keira Knightley's character of Gretta in "Begin Again" writes these kinds of songs. What this movie shows is that these are the hardest kinds of songs to perform. They are the songs in which one is baring their soul for all to see. It is the scariest kind of song to write, but what the movie shows is that it can also be the most rewarding.

You see, music can be a deeply personal experience, both for the artists writing and performing the song and for the people listening to it, but it can also be something else. When a song is shared with someone else, a beautiful thing happens: a connection is made. It doesn't have to be the deepest song in the world for this connection to happen, but I feel that when it is something more personal that the connection is even stronger than just a song about partying or dancing. I've discovered some of my favorite and closest people through their music. I mean, I don't actually know or haven't actually met most of these people, but in a way, I do know them. I know that these artists have the same thoughts I do. I know that they look at the world the same way I do and I know that they were able to put these thoughts into a piece of music that anyone can listen to. That is a beautiful thing.

"Begin Again" is a movie that takes a look at two characters, a record producer and a musician, who are in a tough time in their life. They are two strangers from different countries who really aren't that different at all. They have some of the same problems and some of the same loves and dislikes. They are people who could really bond together if they ever met. The problem is that they would never meet, if not for the power of song.

I can recall so many moments that music has connected me with other people. I've had romance begin through the power of a song. I've been constantly in rooms with strangers that became completely connected with me through the power of music. Every concert I have ever been to has been like this. I've also done karaoke many times and have myself united a whole room of people through the power of songs sung by me on stage. I have felt united to other people who have sung songs on stage. "Begin Again" is ultimately a cinematic love letter to this phenomenon that so many people have experienced in their lives.

"Begin Again", like the best songs, hits all the right notes. Everyone here seems so perfect for their characters. Some maybe more obviously so than others, like Cee Lo Green playing a hip hop artist or Adam Levine playing a musician whose musical substance, and facial hair, comes into question. Everyone here gives a perfect performance though. The directing and editing is also just right. The first part of the movie plays perfectly with perspective in relationship to music and really sets the tone for things to come. The story goes just enough in all the right directions to work, but never too far as to make the story go into territory that is not necessary or is too predictable. The best part about "Begin Again", however, is the way it so accurately captures the power of music.

I have never seen on screen before such an accurate acknowledgement of the way music can change people. There are so many moments in "Begin Again" that I have experienced in my life before, but have never seen on screen before. "Begin Again" is one of the most powerful showcases ever made of the power that music has to connect us all.

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